Soledad Brothers were an American garage blues band formed in 1998 in Maumee, Ohio. The group originally comprised Johnny Walker on guitar, harmonica and vocals and Ben Swank on drums. Brian Olive (piano, guitar, saxophone and vocals) joined the group following the release of their debut LP. They took their name from a trio of convicted Black Panther members who had been imprisoned in Soledad Prison in California. [1]

The group were part of the garage rock scene in nearby Detroit, whose most famous export was the White Stripes. The band had both personal and professional associations with both Jack and Meg White. Jack White appeared on the b-side of the Soledad Brothers' debut single and went on to produce their eponymous debut LP in 2000, upon which Meg provided some percussion. Johnny Walker also played guitar on two tracks on the White Stripes debut LP. Prior to forming the Soledad Brothers, Walker and Swank had been in the garage band Henry & June. In later years the White Stripes would cover their 'Goin' Back To Memphis' in their live shows, for example in the band's live set from Peel Acres on 08 November 2001.

In 2002 the group released their second LP, 'Steal Your Soul And Dare Your Spirit To Move'. A third, 'Voice Of Treason' followed in 2003. The group's fourth and final LP, 'The Hardest Walk', emerged in 2005 shortly before the band split.

Links To Peel

Peel first heard the Soledad Brothers in the summer of 2001 on the compilation albums 'Sympathetic Sounds Of Detroit' and 'The Estrus 100% Apeshit Rock Sampler Vol. 2'. The tracks on both releases had been produced by Jack White: this association led Peel to obtain a copy of the Soledad Brothers debut LP, also produced by the White Stripes frontman. He acknowledged this link on the 27 September 2001 (Radio Eins) show:

"These days of course everybody's gone mad for the White Stripes and people have been pretending to have liked them for several years without having done so at all, of course, and there's also much interest in records with which they're involved. So this is a track from an LP by the Soledad Brothers, which Jack White produced and on which Meg White plays percussion. And it's slightly disappointing I have to admit ... until you get to track 14."

The track in question was 'Gimmie Back My Wig', which Peel had cited as a standout on the '100% Apeshit Rock Sampler Vol. 2' compilation from Estrus a couple of weeks earlier, when he'd enthused, "that Jimmy Reed rhythm does it to me every time." [2]

'Break 'Em On Down' from the Soledad Brothers second LP 'Steal Your Soul And Dare Your Sprit To Move' (2002) also found favour with the DJ. [1] The track was based on Delta bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell's 'Shake 'Em On Down'. Peel played the original segued into the Soledad Brothers version on 06 March 2002. The track received several plays on his show and was later to feature on Peel's DJ mix for Fabric, released that same year as FabricLive.07.

After their Maida Vale live set of 06 November 2002, the group presented the DJ with a gift of some records. At least one of these (the Pig's Big 78 selection) was played the following evening.

Peel also played tracks from the group's third LP, 2003's 'Voice Of Treason', describing it as "their most coherent work to date, I think, whatever that may mean" [3]. "Never less than fantastic" was his verdict when their second session went out on 25 June 2003.

The White Stripes covered 'St Ides of March' as a B side to the single 'The Hardest Button To Button' in 2003, as noted by Peel on 02 October 2003. He does not appear to have played their version though.

A copy of the group's debut 7" 'Sugar & Spice' / 'Johnny's Death Letter' was subsequently found to reside in John Peel's Record Box of his most treasured singles. This presumably earned its place in the collection thanks to the presence of Jack White on the B side.

Festive Fifty Entries

  • None.


1. 06 November 2002 live at Maida Vale.

  • Mysterious Ways / Teenage Heart Attack / Break 'Em On Down / Rock Me Slow / Up Jump The Devil / Johnny's Death Letter / Goin' Back To Memphis / Gospel According To John / Cage That Tiger / Soledad Brother / Only Flower In My Bed / Gimmie Back My Wig

2. Recorded 12-May-2003. Broadcast 25 June 2003. Repeat 02 October 2003.

  • Bring It On Home / Handle Song / Ben's Idea / Cage That Tiger

3. Recorded 25-February-2004. Broadcast 24 March 2004.

  • St Ides Of March / Jack On Fire / Lorali / Rock Me Slow

Other Shows Played


The Soledad Brothers - Sugar & Spice


External Links

  1. Peel seemed to enjoy the spoken introduction to the song, which has Johnny Walker saying "my name is Johnny. You deal with me now." He incorporated this into his introduction to the show on 09 April 2002.
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